Archived Story

Voters to decide fate of bond proposal

Published 12:05am Thursday, July 26, 2012

Voters will have to decide the future of a multimillion dollar bond proposal Aug. 7 that aims to improve technology in Dowagiac Union Schools and erect a new high school.

The $19.9 million bond for the district has been a discussion item for more than a year, according to Michelle Helmuth, president of the Dowagiac Board of Education.

Details of the bond proposal include building a new high school adjacent to Dowagiac Middle School, located on Riverside Drive, and upgrading technology for all schools in the district.

Current technology, Helmuth said, limits learning in the classroom and hinders teachers’ ability to expand lessons.

“One thing I liked that our new high school principal said was that we need to prepare our students for more global learning,” Helmuth said Wednesday. “We’ve got the right students and the right teachers; we just need the right tools.

This bond will allow us to change what’s available to them.”

Supt. Mark Daniel said the possibility of having students in sixth through 12th grades in the same vicinity allows for easier transitions and a higher utilization rate of the middle school’s property.

“Sixth through 12th-graders is half of our student population,” Daniel said. “Having them all here would move the utilization rate to 91 percent.”

Some parents expressed concerns that putting younger students in the same proximity as high school students may create opportunities for bullying. Daniel said that wouldn’t be the case and the opportunity for peer mediation becomes attainable.

“For the most part, the high school and middle school students would be separated,” Daniel said.

Other concerns residents have voiced about the bond proposal include the increase on taxes if the proposal passes.

Depending on an individual’s home value, the amount they will be taxed could vary.

“I’ve drawn up numbers for presentations I’m doing that give estimates for low, medium and high,” Daniel said. “Some

I’ve seen can be $38 in taxes for the year. It comes down to the question of do we want to put money into our current structure or have the opportunity to build a new facility with better technology?”

Daniel and Helmuth also explained the importance of the bond at this time, stating legislation currently in processing by the state would cap the ability for districts to borrow against bonds.

“That would include borrowing for any type of school improvement, growth or change,” Helmuth said.

Helmuth also said if the bond passes, the construction of the new building would be considered phase two for improving school conditions for older students.

“We would be expanding and building on what we already have,” Helmuth said.

Daniel will be presenting information on the bond proposal at the Council on Aging’s facility, Front Street Crossing, in downtown Dowagiac at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

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